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Frequently Asked Questions

The Reproductive Health Act

What is the purpose of the Reproductive Health Act?


The purpose of the RHA is to codify Roe v. Wade protections into state law and ensure
access to safe, legal abortion in New York State.

Does the Reproductive Health Act allow any health care practitioner to provide
abortion care?
The RHA states: “A health care practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized under title
eight of the education law, acting within his or her lawful scope of practice, may perform
an abortion.” This means that some physicians and some Advanced Practice Clinicians
(APCs), including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and licensed midwives are
qualified and authorized to provide abortion care.

It is important to know that the RHA does not change laws that govern medical
providers or scope of practice. When New York State’s 1970 abortion law was enacted,
the only medical providers recognized in state law were physicians; therefore,
physicians were the only medical practitioner authorized to provide abortion care. Since
1970, there has been progress in medical technology, procedures, education, and
training. APCs are now established in state law and perform a range of medical
services. Before the RHA, State Boards had already determined that APCs were
qualified to perform certain abortion services. The RHA updated the law to reflect
current medical standards of practice. APCs are highly skilled professionals, and their
qualifications and scope of practice are determined by experts, just like any other
medical provider. The RHA does not authorize any health care providers to perform
abortions who are not qualified to do so.

The Reproductive Health Act legalizes abortion past 24 weeks of pregnancy if the
woman’s health or life are at risk, or if the fetus is not viable. What constitutes
“health” and “viability”?
Health and viability are medical terms. Like other medical terms, they are not defined in
our state law. In consultation with the pregnant woman, a medical provider determines
whether her health is at risk, exercising medical judgment and considering a variety of
factors. Some of the medical conditions that may put a pregnant woman’s health at risk
include placental abruption, bleeding, placenta previa, preeclampsia or eclampsia, and
cardiac or renal conditions.

Viability refers to the capacity of the fetus for sustained survival outside of the woman’s
uterus, with or without artificial support. Similar to evaluating a pregnant woman’s

pg. 1 Issued by the Office of NY State Senator Liz Krueger


health, medical providers consider a variety of factors following medical standards of
practice when determining whether a fetus is viable. Some of the fetal anomalies that
may cause the fetus to be nonviable include anencephaly, the absence of the brain and
cranium above the base of the skull, and limb-body wall complex, when the organs
develop outside of the body cavity.

Every pregnancy is different and these are complex medical situations. Prior to the
RHA, New York law put pressure on doctors to wait for a medical condition to worsen
and become life-threatening before being able to provide appropriate care. That is why
it is medical providers, not legislators, who must make medical assessments about
health and viability, following medical standards of practice and the law.

What happens if an abortion results in the live birth of a baby?


Due to advancements in medical practices, education, and training, modern abortion
techniques do not result in live birth. Although it would be highly unlikely, if a baby was
born alive, the medical practitioner and medical support staff would provide all
necessary care, just as they would in the case of any live birth. The RHA does not
change standards of medical practice. Any baby born alive in New York State would be
treated like any other live birth, and given appropriate medical care. This was the case
before the RHA, and it remains the case now.

Why is it necessary to allow women to have an abortion later in pregnancy?


There are women who have experienced the tragedy of learning later in a wanted
pregnancy that their health or lives are at risk, or that the fetus is not viable. In
consultation with her health care provider, sometimes a woman has the choice to carry
to term, to induce labor, or to have a c-section without jeopardizing her health or life. In
other cases, an abortion is medically necessary. Each pregnancy is different and these
are complex medical situations. Abortion is part of reproductive healthcare. Therefore, a
woman must be able to make the appropriate health care decision for herself based on
the medical circumstances.

Does the RHA allow a woman to have an abortion later in pregnancy if she is
experiencing mental health issues?
The RHA legalizes abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy if a woman’s health is at risk.
As stated above, in consultation with the pregnant woman, a medical provider
determines whether her health is at risk, exercising medical judgment upon considering
a variety of factors. One of many factors considered is the woman’s mental health.
Often the minimization of mental health issues as a justification for abortion is used by
opponents of abortion to denigrate both women and health care providers. It is a myth
that women seek abortion care later in a pregnancy for frivolous reasons, or that doctors
would provide abortions in those circumstances.

pg. 2 Issued by the Office of NY State Senator Liz Krueger


I’ve heard that the RHA allows the fetus to be aborted up to the moment of birth.
Is that true?
The RHA does not permit abortions to be performed up to the moment of birth, nor do
women decide to have an abortion up to that point. Misinformation about the RHA seeks
to convince people that after women have gone into labor, which could last minutes,
hours, or days, they decide to have an abortion. This is simply not accurate.
Furthermore, this is a false representation of medical standards of practice, as well as
the ethical guidelines and laws that medical providers must follow.

When abortions are performed later in pregnancy, it is because they are medically
necessary due to the fetus not being viable or the woman’s health or life being at risk.
Fetal anomalies are frequently detected during the third trimester and medical
conditions that put a woman’s health at risk can occur at any time during pregnancy. If a
woman’s health or life are at risk during labor or delivery, medical providers will work to
save the lives of the woman and the fetus.

Who determines what education and training are required to be a qualified


abortion provider?
The New York State Education Department is the regulatory agency that oversees
licensure of health care professionals, including educational and training requirements.

If a woman’s pregnancy is ended as a result of domestic abuse or assault, will


she have legal recourse to seek justice?
Violent attacks on people are a heinous crime, and the loss of a wanted pregnancy is
tragic and devastating. The RHA does not change the ability to charge and sentence
perpetrators of such crimes appropriately. Before the RHA, first and second degree
abortion charges carried a penalty of 2-7 and 1.5-4 years respectively. Physical assault
on a woman resulting in the loss of pregnancy qualifies as a charge of first degree
assault, which carries a much higher penalty of 5-25 years. If a woman is killed in such
an attack, a murder charge carries a sentence of 25 years to life. Furthermore, judges
have discretion when sentencing to increase the penalty for particularly violent or brutal
crimes. Finally, additional charges may be pressed as well, such as kidnapping,
depending on the circumstances of the crime.

Abortion is healthcare, not a crime. Women who are attacked while pregnant are still
fully protected by New York State law, and every domestic violence advocacy
organization in New York State supported the RHA. Criminalizing abortion is not
necessary to protect women, and causes harm to women by stigmatizing abortion care
and hindering access.

pg. 3 Issued by the Office of NY State Senator Liz Krueger


The Reproductive Health Act repeals section 4164 of the Health Code. Doesn’t
this jeopardize women’s safety?
The RHA strives to ensure women’s safety by only permitting qualified, licensed medical
practitioners to provide abortion services. As with other types of health care services,
these medical providers must follow medical standards of practice to ensure patient
safety.

Section 4164 of the Health Code was repealed because the provisions were medically
and legally unnecessary, did not reflect contemporary medical standards of practice,
and created a burden on the delivery of necessary reproductive healthcare.

If a women is far along in her pregnancy and learns that her health is at risk, why
can’t she just get a c-section if the fetus is viable at that point?
If a woman learns later in pregnancy that her health is at risk, all treatment options are
evaluated in consultation with her medical provider, including c-section, induction of
labor, and abortion. Each pregnancy is different and these are complex medical
situations that require consideration of clinical factors including the woman’s health and
fetal indications. Having a c-section is not always a possible or the safest option.

What impact will the Reproductive Health Act have on providers and hospitals
that are against providing abortion care?
New York State Civil Rights law and several federal laws allow for religious refusals to
provide abortion care. The RHA does not change or interfere with these protections.

pg. 4 Issued by the Office of NY State Senator Liz Krueger